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The Greatest Become the Least

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But Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. Matthew 20:25-27

John and James wanted to take a fast track of sorts to power and authority, and their mother wasn't shy in asking for Jesus to grant them the highest positions in His kingdom. We may associate greatness in a kingdom with status, authority, respect, and attention, but Jesus flipped their notions upside down.

There are no shortcuts or fast tracks in the kingdom. Jesus challenged John and James to pursue "downward mobility" instead of trying to leap over their fellow disciples into the most prominent places in the kingdom of God. John's later epistles reveal that he received this message and took it to heart, because in them he emphasizes love for one another rather than using his authority to order his fellow believers around.

Whatever John thought he could accomplish by receiving a powerful position from Jesus, he eventually found that loving service for others carried far more power. Most importantly, service disarms critics and bridges divisions. Jesus showed John and James a new way to lead and to use authority.
 

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